French high school

Lawsuit ‘to keep the pressure on’ government over all-French school

Money has been allocated for an all-French high school in East York, but parents aren't backing down

A new French-language high school in the east end of Toronto is closer to becoming a reality, but that doesn’t mean everyone is content.

Though the province has allocated $16 million for the school, a coalition representing parents from the Beaches-East York area is keeping alive a lawsuit against the government.

The action is the result of parents wanting a new French-language school in their area that is equal to their English-language counterparts.

“We want to make sure the school is built, so we’ll keep the pressure on until the school is constructed,” said lawyer Nicolas Rouleau, who is representing the parents coalition.

Rouleau doesn’t necessarily want it to go that far.

“We’re giving the government a chance to respond to it and we’re giving the government a chance to provide us a school without using the court system,” he said.

Conseil scolaire Viamonde, the French public school board for southwestern Ontario, believes the neighbourhood definitely has a need.

“All the students living in the east end of Toronto don’t have access to a secondary school, so this is why we want to open a secondary school in the Danforth region,” said Claire Francoeur, Viamonde’s director of communications and marketing.

The school is expected to have around 500 students, which, for this area, would be quite large, she said.

Right now, Viamonde’s preferred option is the former Greenwood Secondary School, at 24 Mountjoy Ave. just south of the Danforth. The building is still owned by the Toronto District School Board.

Extensive renovations would be needed to get the building up to the standards of Viamonde and today’s standards for schools, said the board’s chair, Jean-François L’Heureux.

“The building will not look the same at all,” he said.

With renovations and the time needed to acquire the school, the opening could be some ways off.

“As we see it right now, the soonest could be 2021, and the soonest is if everything goes smoothly and fast,” Francoeur said. “If it’s not, it could take even longer.”

While Viamonde isn’t directly involved with the lawsuit, “We do believe that the pressure the parents are putting on the government is a good thing,” L’Heureux said.

“The parents are a partner, and we’re happy that they’re involved and that they care about the community.”

Even if the school becomes a reality, however, it’s only part of the solution.

“We want to ensure that a) the school is provided and b) when the school is provided, it’s equal to what the English language students have,” said parents-coalition lawyer Rouleau.

“We’ve agreed to hold off on moving forward with the lawsuit, for now. We’re not dropping it altogether, but we’re not pushing it hard.”

Rouleau said that while the allocation of money is a good thing, the ultimate goal is to get a facility that is equal to what other students already have.

“A win for our clients,” he said, “would be basically a school that all English-language students in the east end take for granted.”